19 августа 2007
| Автор: Су-27
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Table tennis has gone through many phases of technical development over the past 40 years or so. By trends I mean those play styles representative of a fair proportion of players who, by adopting similar technical characteristics, achieve leading results at international level.
There are of course minority styles which many players still enjoy, though without much noticeable achievement today, e.g. the penhold fast two wing hit which used to be the victor of all; and those,though extensively employed, technically unlikely to produce serious winners, e.g. the choppers. They are not mentioned in this article as the 'trends' solely because of their obvious technical weakness which seems impossible to overcome for the foreseeable future. Their fate of existence relies on whether revolutionary innovations are to happen.
The following three are considered the mainstream styles that dictate today's games.
Steady and Balanced Offensive (SBO)
Chinese Fast Attack (CFA)
Fast and Balanced Offensive (FBO)
1. The SBO became a recognised winning force in the later part of 1980s, devised by Swedish players in search of effective approach to balance the strength of the Chinese. Since then, there have been four significant switch-overs in the men's table tennis power sharing.
From 1989 to around 1992, the Swedish balanced speed and spin with complete strength in defence-offence switch (hereafter called switch) , represented by Waldner and Persson, came to light and terminated the conventional Chinese close-to-table penhold attacks.
1992-1994, players from other European countries, typically Gatien and Saive, employed an extreme speed and power style making rally strength nearly redundant and took the lead from the Swedes. With due respect to the players concerned, the glory of this style, for obvious lack of technical potential, short lived only to verify some earlier prediction of its doomed fall.
1995-1997, Chinese players came back with much improved close-to-table fast and powerful switch ability while the European balanced complete games were revitalised with the reinforcement of players like Samsonov and Primorac.
1997 to date, the speed-and-power only games are rarely winning. Well matched in strength are the balanced complete players,i.e. Waldner and Samsonov, and the Chinese close-to-table attacks,i.e. Liu Guoliang and Ma Lin.
The capability of switching between defence and offence is now the key element in today's games and essential in the control of games. Table tennis in nature is a game of control and counter-control at very fast pace. Individual stroke techniques are there to serve this ultimate purpose. The switch is a full scale quality requirement at either close-to-table or away-from-table, and should be dynamically integrated into every stroke in a rally rather than statically. Players are required to be able to switch around at all times with speed and power. This is the trend in the men's table tennis today. A particular players capability is therefore measured by the extent to which he controls a game, not by a few eye-catching strokes.
Among the leading players representative of the European balanced style, Samsonov is the most complete in techniques, switch and rally ability and possesses so far the best technical structure. Since the weight of his play is primarily pivoted on constant switch during a rally, his strokes (inc. opening topspin, counter-topspin, backhand lead and block, away-from-table counter-topspin) are in a comfortable and natural flow allowing adequate time and room for proper technical movement; and he is hardly seen caught unprepared or losing body balance during play. Most of his attack strokes are produced at the peak of bounce rather than before the peak, which mean the combination of speed and power characterised by deep and long shots.
However, there are not really other young European players capable of posing serious challenge to the Oriental force which consist of mostly young or even junior players already at the world top level with Liu 23,Kong 24, Ma Lin 19 and Wang Liqin 21.
Among the top Chinese players, Kong Linghui and Ma Lin stand out in terms of completeness and technical co-ordination, yet with a strength weakness that certainly limits their room of tactical application. Liu Guoliang is the name for speed but often compromised by his unbalance of techniques.
Let us forget about geographical obsession for a moment. The only player to match Samsonov in real term strength is Wang Liqin who in fact is more powerful and faster. Wang's ability in switching from defence to offence is full fledged, though not known as a problem solver in the court, and he has yet to overcome being too reliant on stroke positions. In other words, his switch is not as natural as Samsonov's but often compensated by his power and speed.
2. The Chinese Fast Offensive Style
The naming of the style is intended to separate it from all previous Chinese offensive plays, e.g. two-wing fast attack, hit and block etc. The new sect, still emphasising first three balls, has an added weight in the switch ability supported by innovative backhand technique, the reverse backhand strokes.
The backhand congenital deficiency led to the severe fall of the pengrip popularity around the turn of the last decade with the Swedes led Europeans took almost all major titles. However, in the belief that penhold is the natural terminator of shakehand, the Chinese table tennis hierarchy had never given up hopes in revitalising their most cherished grip. With more and more youngsters turning to shakehand, the CTTA introduced a national competition rule that states there must be at least one penhold player in any team.
Their effort was finally paid off. Over the past years, substantial progress has been made on the backhand techniques including the now well-known reverse backhand, though far from perfect. This has led to the much enhanced switch ability on backhand play with the reverse techniques not just to surprise opponent but, if used properly,capable of serious confrontation with the shakehand backhand.
The winning elements of the Chinese Fast Attack are the serve led offensive, better in-table techniques enabled by the easy use of wrist and finger. In China, shakehand is seen as a cheap way to success as it contains less technical content than penhold and produces early-age results. The generally recognised shakehand and penhold year to success ratio is 3:5. On a visit to a North China table tennis school, known for their efficient production of professional players,I was surprised there was not even one penholder among their players. When asked, the Head Teacher told me that these kids were from poor peasant families who wanted to see early results and simply could not afford longer years.
A little too reliant on serve led offensive, the future of CFA is now overshadowed by the possibility of changes in service rule. And although a winning style, it is unlikely to be adopted by any European players in the near future for various reason.
3. The futuristic Fast and Balanced Offensive
The FBO is a cross century style and the not-too-far-a-future table tennis. Wang Liqin seems the only player experimenting the new style with steady success.
It is indeed an improved version of the current trend, the European Steady and Balanced Offensive. The essence of this sect is a faster and full scale switch, with substantial power, executed at virtually any point of a rally. The requirement to players is therefore very high and complete in strokes, footwork, mental perceptiveness and physical capability. Such a game does not allow any relaxed transition which is often displayed in today's games.
Wang Liqin can be a role model if the following aspects are improved.
* Structural stability. This is to do with players ability to implement all stroke techniques in a natural flow, in table, close to the table and away from the table.
* Psychological interpretation of the switch in terms of timing and power. He is still often seen unreasonably offensive.
* Backhand friction control. He at present plays a little too much for speed. The lack of friction often puts him into awkwardness with sidespun balls into backhand.
* Although his counter-topspin ability is unparalleled, he has yet to improve his return of short serve and the use of finger control.